I sat on the broken front step of the ‘new’ house.
New town, new school … nothing was the same.
When she first sees her ‘new’ house, a young girl sees nothing but ‘old’ – drooping roof, peeling paint, a crumbling step, and cracks everywhere. She is not impressed. She does not like change. At all. She plods off to her first week of school. But after the first week, she notices a tiny change to her house. As the weeks past, the house continues to change – and so does her movement, until, finally, she skips towards her new home.
Through the Gate is a clever, feel-good book about coping with change and, particularly, moving home. Visually, the transformation of the house from a tumble down cottage with a broken picket fence, to a beautifully restored house, with fence and garden, is clever. The use of colour – with early illustrations showing all but the girl in grey scale, and colour being added progressively as the house changes – highlights the girl’s changing attitude as she finds pleasure in her new life, and adapts to the changes.
A wonderful story of resilience.
Through the Gate, by Sally Fawcett
EK Books, 2017
Claire and her family have moved overseas, to a city where everything seems terribly different to her home in Australia. Claire worries about lots of things – the language, the traffic, the food – but most of all she wonders how she will make new friends. Maybe, her mother suggests, the friends will find her.
Claire had said goodbye to all her favourite people
and flown a long way from home.
Everything was different, the smells, the sky, the sounds.
Everything seemed difficult.
Claire and her family have moved overseas, to a city where everything seems terribly different to her home in Australia. Claire worries about lots of things – the language, the traffic, the food – but most of all she wonders how she will make new friends. Maybe, her mother suggests, the friends will find her. And that is exactly what happens. Claire is waved to by a little girl on the back of a bike, and smiled at by a boy in a restaurant. When she meets the girl again in the markets, she knows she has a new friend. But it is when Claire finds herself lost on a walk that her new friend, Kieu, actually finds her, and shows her the way home.
The Red Bridge is a sumptuous picture book about friendship and about change. Claire moves across the world, but the fears she feels are just as real for children going through any move, or even other changes in their lives. How will I make friends? How will I know how to do things? How will I get around? Claire is guided by her mother, who doesn’t express her own fears at the same changes, yet perhaps best shows them in her triumphant cheer when they manage to get across a busy road together. But Mum also has the courage to let Claire explore her new neighbourhood after they’ve become familiar, a nice touch which is perhaps a gentle reminder for nervous parents to let go.
Illustrated in generously rich reds, browns and golden tones using Dunstan’s delightful mixed media collage, The Red Bridge is a beautiful offering suitable for early childhood readers.
The Red Bridge, by Kylie Dunstan
Windy Hollow Books, 2011
This book can be purchased in good bookstores, or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.